I was in Iceland when this news broke, so once again I'm a little behind here at "The Blog of Phyz." In any case, I am one of three science teacher finalists nominated by the state of California for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).
The news was admittedly known to me before the press release was posted and carried. I got a surprise phone call from Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, June 2nd. It was funny because I was picking up Paul and Lillian Hewitt from the train station when the call came in. They were in town for the visit described below. So I was trying to find a quiet space with cell reception at the Amtrak station. A nice mix of surrealism and comedy.
The Superintendent was generous with praise for my work and inquisitive regarding science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM) education. His congratulations were warm and his interest was genuine.
I didn't know I would be speaking with Mr. Torlakson when the call came through--or that he was bearing news that I had been made a finalist. I was already pretty geeked to be picking up the Hewitts for their visit to my fair city. So I was happy to have kept all bodily functions in check.
The application process is rigorous and I have little doubt that the review process was anything but thorough. I am grateful to my mentor and physics teacher extraordinaire, Steve Keith, for persistently nominating me. And to my recommenders: Rio's Vanessa Adolphson, former student and soon-to-be Jesuit HS physics teacher, Jessica Scheimer, and guiding light, Paul Hewitt. And to my students, especially my 6th period class for being active participants (as they always were) even while being videotaped during the "Blue Sky" lesson. And to Amir Khazaieli for shooting the one-take and burning it to DVD.
I haven't said much about the PAEMST application or selection as a finalist up to this point. My students knew about it and were excited about it when I completed the application at the beginning of May. But some presumed I would win and wanted to know when I would be notified. The selection process and the existence of so many other highly-qualified candidates weren't part of their reality. I did my best to play things down to them.
The finalist selection was the California Department of Education's story to tell. I didn't want to jump the gun or spill too many beans prior to their press release. And I was in Iceland when the release came out.
State nominations go to the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. They will decide which of the states' finalists will be selected for this year's PAEMST class. I would not have applied for this recognition if I didn't hope to represent California among this year's winners. But I also know that California has no shortage of excellent science teachers. And I have already won so much in that I have a job I wake up wanting to do, and I get to share my enthusiasm with great students and great teachers.